The Catlins is a road-trippers dream, with winding roads weaving together a rolling symphony of picture-perfect landscapes, blue sea waters bordered by towering cliffs and stretches of golden-sand beaches and bays. As you stare out at the Hector's dolphins leaping from the water and seals lazing on the beaches, feel the wind and salt mist on your face. Wander through forests and listen to the symphony of New Zealand's native birds sing while the waterfalls swirl. Welcome to the Catlins.
The rough natural beauty of the Catlins, with all its captivating features, and jagged and windswept coasts, make the perfect destination for towering lighthouses such as Waipapa Point and Nugget Point Lighthouses. Sea lions may be seen tucked in the long grasses for protection as you wander around New Zealand's maritime historic sites. Make sure you bring your camera to capture the seabirds circling the cliff sides and plunging into the seas that posed a threat to ships all those centuries ago.
Watch the water pour over waterfalls in the Catlins, with the early morning light shining through the rainforest. The beauty of flowing water is enhanced by the dark stone, and lush forest surrounds. The most well-known is Pūrākaunui Falls, a beautiful waterfall surrounded by greenery that cascades 20 metres. McLean Falls, the region's tallest fall, is only a 40-minute return walk. Last but not least, you can’t miss the ironically named Niagara Falls to tick off the bucket list.
Listen to native birdsong calls in the early morning dawn. Scan the waters of Curio Bay for the elusive Hectors Dolphins and rejoice as they leap from the ocean. Visit the petrified forest in the evening to discover the 160-million-year-old remains of a Jurassic-era forest and see yellow-eyed penguins emerge from the water after a day of fishing. Fur seals, elephant seals, and sea lions may all be seen lying on the rocks below you, mimicking stranded driftwood.
The scenic beauty and rich history of the area unfolds along the Catlins Heritage Trail, enticing you to stop, gaze, and learn something new. Whaling, sealing and forestry were the backbone of the Catlins economy during the 1800s, resulting in historic buildings dotted along the coast for travellers to explore and enjoy. The old buildings have been lovingly refurbished by proud locals to house informative museums, quirky accommodation, and cafés filled with delicious homemade locally sourced food.
Discover the quirky side of the Catlins, all of its hidden gems and curious spots. Visit The Lost Gypsy Gallery in Papatowai to marvel at the myriad of odd and peculiar contraptions while sipping an energising barista-made coffee in the Little Rocket caravan. Fashioned from recycled bits and bobs, the main gallery is housed in a converted 1951 Leyland Comet house bus, while an adults-only gallery beckons up the path with a carnival of even more outrageous sculptures.
Wonder of Walks
There are plenty of wonderful walking tracks in the Catlins that can be enjoyed by both hiking fanatics and casual strollers who are after easily accessible and allow you to explore the region's rich natural history. These walks take you through native forests, lakes, rivers, sandy beaches, and magnificent caves, with some even including picnic sites or campers, allowing you to take as much time as you need to explore this stunning corner of New Zealand.
Southern Most Point
It's an exhilarating feeling standing at the edge of the world, looking out towards the horizon where you can just imagine the South Pole to be. Visit Slope Point, the southernmost point of the South Island and get that Instagram photo with the iconic yellow AA signpost that marks the distance between the equator and the south pole. The point's sheer, jagged cliffs provide amazing views of the surrounding ocean and shoreline.
Slope Point is the southernmost point on the South Island of New Zealand and is accessible via a 20 minute walk across private farmland. Once there, a yellow AA signpost shows the distance to the equator and the south pole. The…
At Papatowai, tucked away in the Catlins south of Dunedin, is a green house bus that's the studio of our artist-craftsman-tinkerer extraordinaire Blair Somerville. In here, you won't know where to look first - quite wacko and…